Risham Syed, Sparrows Tongue in Cheek, Acrylic on handloom woven cotton (khes); digital print, embroidery on cotton with synthetic American wool as filling, 42 x 86 inches, 2019
“I refer to the local cotton hand-woven khes to talk about the history and politics of 19th century. An old relic of a press representing the ‘machine’ visited by these sparrows, sits in conversation with the khes.
Before the import of ma¬chine made goods from Britain and Europe in the mid nineteenth century, small-scale cotton industries in Punjab were known for their handlooms. Hand spinning was prac¬ticed and the thicker phulkari fabrics, khes are living examples of it.
For generations, women in the villages of Punjab, India have woven the khes as a part of the trousseau. Khes is a floor spread and bed covering that is traditionally made of cotton. The thinner ones are used as bed coverings in winter and the thicker ones are used in place of shawls during winters. According to his¬torians, weaving is traditionally thought to have developed from mat-making which have simple geometric patterns, sometimes braided and sometimes just coiled. Impressions of evi¬dently similar coiled mats are found on the bases of pottery vessels from the Indus sites as early as Neolithic times. “